Extraordinary and memorable, 2022 started with the exciting GOAT race deadlocked— Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer all boasted 20 Grand Slam titles, a once-unthinkable men’s feat. It ended with Nadal at 22, Djokovic next with 21, and Federer, sidelined with a career-ending knee injury, trailing at 20.
The GOAT competition riveted sports fans so much that tennis dominated Google’s most-searched athletes. Its annual year in search report ranked Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams in the top three global spots with Carlos Alcaraz ranked No. 10.
Neither debilitating illnesses nor serious injuries stopped the seemingly indestructible 36-year-old Nadal from capturing the Australian and French Opens and racking up a 22-match winning streak. A chronic foot injury that left him on crutches and a case of Covid in late December put his trip to Melbourne and even his career in jeopardy. Down two sets to the formidable Daniil Medvedev in the final, Rafa changed tactics from grinding to hitting harder and harder. “Like a prize fighter on the ropes, Nadal keeps throwing punches,” said ESPN analyst John McEnroe. “That’s why people love him.” With a graceful, unreturnable volley on championship point, the ultimate warrior clinched the 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 tour de force that lasted 5 hours and 24 minutes and ended at 1:15 a.m.
When Rafa limped off the court after losing in the Rome third round, playing Roland Garros appeared in jeopardy. Once again, he not only survived but prevailed. Treated by his travelling physician after each match, Nadal defeated No. 1 Djokovic, No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime, and No. 3 Alexander Zverev. He needed a pre-final injection to kill the tormenting pain, which made his foot feel “asleep”, to face much-improved Casper Ruud. The King of Clay overwhelmed the inexperienced Norwegian, his good friend, 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 for an unfathomable French Open 14th title, a record that may never be broken.
While Nadal maximised his talent, Djokovic sabotaged his season. Novak’s reckless refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 resulted in his being prohibited from playing the Australian and U.S. Opens. Still, the extremely ambitious Serb managed to seize his seventh Wimbledon title with an entertaining four-set victory over explosive shot-maker Nick Kyrgios. That triumph tied Djokovic with Pete Sampras and left him one short of Federer’s Big W record. Novak, in peak form, went unbeaten in five matches for his sixth ATP Finals title, matching Federer’s record.
Alcaraz idolised fellow-Spaniard Nadal as a boy but moulded his flashy, hyper-athletic game after Federer. His meteoric ascent shattered records as he became the youngest Open Era No. 1 at 19 and the first teenager in tennis history to earn $10 million or more in prize money in a single season.
Past and present stars showered Carlos with superlatives. “This guy has everything. He has incredible power, speed, touch, and he’s great at net,” raved John McEnroe. “I’ve been trying to find a weakness in Alcaraz’s game, and I haven’t found one yet,” said Jim Courier. On his compatriot and heir-apparent, Nadal, said, “I think he’s unstoppable in terms of his career. He has the passion. He’s humble enough to work hard. He reminds me of me when I was a 17- or 18-year-old kid.”
Those who worry about the popularity of tennis in the post-Big Three era or even post-Federer, shouldn’t. When a reporter asked Federer, the sport’s most beloved champion, “What will your fans do when you retire?” Roger replied, “They’ll fall in love with someone else.”
They’re already falling in love with the charismatic Alcaraz, whose dazzling shots and on-court joy are complemented by his off-court bonhomie and humility.
In women’s tennis, Iga Swiatek quickly filled the vacuum caused by the shock retirement of 25-year-old Ashleigh Barty, just two months after the Aussie won her third major at the Australian Open. The wonderfully versatile and tactically clever Barty edged Danielle Collins, 6-3, 7-6 (2) in the final after the hard-hitting American upset Swiatek 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals. Collins, a tenacious competitor, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and reached her first Grand Slam final just nine months after undergoing surgery for endometriosis, showing that her tenacity extends to more than the tennis court.
Four months later, Iga, known for pumping herself up to Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Guns N’ Roses before matches, took her second French Open. In the final, she outclassed the less-experienced but highly talented, 18-year-old Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3.
Afterwards, the precocious American, who wrote “Peace. End gun violence” on a camera lens following an earlier match, told the crowd, “I think in general using sports as a platform is important.” In the trophy ceremony, Swiatek also used her racquet as a megaphone to promote international justice. “I would like to say something to Ukraine. Stay strong, the war is still there.”
Inspired by new coach Tomasz Witkorowski and calmed by her travelling psychologist Daria Abramowicz, Swiatek played more offensively than ever as she grabbed her first hard-court major at the U.S. Open. Her devastating topspin forehand, mercurial defence, and mental toughness keyed her 6-2, 7-6 (5) final victory over Ons Jabeur. Iga, a 21-year-old Pole, finished with a Tour-leading eight titles and nearly double the points of second-ranked Jabeur, 11,085 to 5,055. Two other indicators of Swiatek’s supremacy are her 37-match winning streak — the longest this century — and a superb 15-2 record against top-10 opponents.
The Wimbledon final featured two players with contrasting personalities and playing styles, but the similarity of being from countries with little tennis tradition. Elena Rybakina left her family and native Russia four years ago for Kazakhstan to pursue her tennis dreams because “People believed in me. Kazakhstan supported me [with funding] so much.” Jabeur was bidding to become the first Tunisian, Arab, and African woman to capture a Grand Slam title in the Open Era (since 1968).
The 23rd-ranked Rybakina, a 100-1 pre-tournament longshot, was the underdog against No. 3 Jabeur. But the Tunisian’s guile and light-hitting touch game proved ineffectual against the powerful serves and groundstrokes of the Kazakhstani who prevailed 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. “Maybe I proved that [you don’t always] have to have a great team from a young age because I didn’t till the age of 17, 18,” Rybakina said afterwards. “So I think this is the most important thing, that everybody, no matter their financial situation, no matter who they are, they can play and achieve many great results.”
In a sport notorious for destructive controversies, the bitterest dispute came when Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine. The ATP and WTA retaliated by senselessly stripping players of their Wimbledon points, which didn’t diminish the tournament’s prestige or the quality of the field, but only marred the rankings and hurt the players.
Let’s look back at this otherwise glorious year for the “Bests” and “Worsts” of vintage 2022.
BEST MEN’S PLAYER — Carlos Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal all have reasonable claims to Player of the Year. Alcaraz finished atop the flawed ATP rankings with the most points, barely ahead of Nadal. The Spanish teenager won the U.S. Open but didn’t make the semis at the other majors. He also captured Masters 1000 titles in Miami and Madrid. Djokovic had quality but not enough quantity. He captured five of 11 tournaments, most notably Wimbledon, the Rome Masters, and the ATP Finals, but was barred from two majors. My vote goes to Nadal. His two Grand Slam titles — the Australian and French Opens — plus reaching the Wimbledon semifinals along with two other titles trump the strong records of Alcaraz and Djokovic.
BEST WOMEN’S PLAYER — Iga Swiatek dominated the women’s game with a blend of offensive power and defensive speed, winning the French and U.S. Opens and six other titles, including four at WTA 1000 events in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, and Rome. The 21-year-old Pole became the first player to finish a season with more than 10,000 ranking points since Serena Williams in 2015 and the first to capture two Grand Slam titles since Angelique Kerber in 2016. Iga’s 37-match winning run, equalled the longest WTA streak since 1990, and she finished the campaign with 67 match wins, the most since Serena in 2013.
Mixed feelings: Novak Djokovic’s reckless refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 resulted in his being prohibited from playing the Australian and U.S. Opens. Still, the extremely ambitious Serb managed to seize his seventh Wimbledon title.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images
BEST FEDERER FAREWELL QUOTE — “To the game of tennis: I love you and I will never leave you,” was the memorably poignant ending of social media post in September that announced tennis legend Roger Federer’s retirement.
BEST SERENA CONFIDENTIAL ABOUT RETIREMENT — “There is no happiness in this topic for me. I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. It’s like a taboo topic… It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry.” — What Serena Williams wrote in the September issue of Vogue magazine in her announcement that she would retire from pro tennis after the 2022 U.S. Open.
BEST MEN’S MATCH — For historical impact, competitive balance, high-level performances, contrasting styles and personalities, and suspense, the Australian Open final easily takes the trophy. Nadal needed this title to break the three-way tie with Djokovic and Federer at 20 majors and also win his second Aussie crown for a double career Grand Slam; Medvedev was going for his second straight hard-court major. In a comeback that all-time great Martina Navratilova called “one for the ages,” the more versatile and resilient Spaniard prevailed 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. “Rafa has more [fighting] spirit than anyone out there,” said Navratilova. Second place goes to a U.S. Open quarterfinal thriller between heavy-hitting New Genners that lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes, ending at 2:50 a.m. when Carlos Alcaraz overcame Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3.
BEST WOMEN’S MATCH — Danielle Collins seemed to have everything against her in the Australian Open final against world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. A 50-1 longshot to win the tournament and given 5-1 odds in her first major final, the 27th-seeded American was facing a zealously pro-Barty crowd. Yet Collins knew she had a chance — if her strong first serve and explosive backhand came through as it did when she overpowered Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-1 in the semis. Ash predictably took the first set 6-3, but ferociously competitive Danielle started blasting winners from inside the baseline to surge ahead 5-1 in the second set. The more athletic and tactically clever Aussie rebounded with two service breaks and a superb tiebreaker to win 6-3, 7-6 (2). The U.S. Open third-round match between Serena Williams and No. 2 Anett Kontaveit — for sheer atmospherics more than the good, but not great tennis — earns second place. Inspired by the raucous crowd, Serena pulled it out, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2, in her last career victory.
BEST MEN’S DOUBLES TEAM — The retirement of Bob and Mike Bryan, the most successful team in the Open Era with 16 Grand Slam titles, created parity in men’s doubles. In 2022, with each major won by a different team, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury achieved the most consistent, high-level results. The American-British tandem captured the U.S. Open for the second straight year — which only the legendary Todd Woodbridge-Mark Woodforde combo had done before in the Open Era — and won the ATP Finals and Masters events at Monte Carlo and Cincinnati. They also made the semifinals twice and quarterfinals at the other majors.
BEST WOMEN’S DOUBLES TEAM — Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova emerged as doubles superstars this year. The longtime Czech friends and partners enjoyed a sensational three-Slam year, triumphing at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open to run their career major total to six. Their success in New York made them only the second team in WTA history to complete the career Golden Slam. Barbora and Katerina also finished runners-up at the WTA Finals to end the season with an outstanding 27-4 win-loss record.
BEST SPORTS PHOTO — A tearful Roger Federer with his hands on his face with a sad, empathetic Rafael Nadal, his good friend and Laver Cup doubles partner, looking at him after Roger’s final career match.
BEST TWEET ABOUT NADAL’S FEAT — Ivan Ljubicic
Not many PLAYED 14 tournaments. He won it 14 times. There is no word to describe this feat. Don’t think good old Phillippe would mind if his court [Court Phillippe Chatrier] changes the name to Rafael Nadal — statue is not enough.
12:32 PM · Jun 5, 2022
NOTE: Nadal has a statue in his honour unveiled on the grounds of Roland Garros at the 2021 event.
BEST TRIBUTE TO FEDERER — Rafa Nadal
Dear Roger, my friend and rival.
I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world.
It’s been a pleasure but also an honour and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.
We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that. For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what’s ahead of you. I’ll see you in London at th2 @lavercup.
12:02 PM · Sep 15, 2022
BEST TRIBUTE TO BIG THREE — “Novak is in a league of his own, that’s for sure, with Rafa and Roger. Then it’s the rest. Maybe one moment somebody’s going to try to catch their number of slams or whatever, then we going to talk about different. I definitely don’t put myself in there. We had some tough battles. He’s leading in head-to-head, even if I won some important matches. Yeah, that’s all I can say. Yeah, I’m definitely, definitely not close to Novak. Maybe when we play, yes, but in general you cannot compare me to him or any one of the Big Three.” — 2021 U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who suffered a tough 2022 ATP Finals, losing all three of his matches in the final set tiebreaker, has no doubt the Big Three are the best players.
BEST PREDICTION ABOUT ALCARAZ AND NEW GEN — “He [Carlos Alcaraz] already has a unique career. He is the youngest No. 1 in history and winner of the U.S. Open as a teenager, exceptional. He is about to change tennis, because in New York, no matter how long the matches went on, he was there the whole time, attacking, going to the net, and contesting every point without fear. And I think this is new. Nobody did that before. We must catch up. They play very fast and have elevated this sport to a new level. Compared to them, the Big Three were almost defensive or cautious.” — Dominic Thiem, the 2020 U.S. Open champion, predicting to AS that the new generation, led by Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, and Tiafoe, were taking the sport to a higher level than the legendary Big Three.
BEST BARTY EXPLANATION FOR RETIRING — “There was a perspective shift in me in this second phase of my career that my happiness wasn’t dependent on the results. Success for me is knowing that I’ve given everything that I can, I’m fulfilled, I’m happy. I’ve said it to my team multiple times, I just don’t have it in me anymore. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want, and everything it takes to challenge myself at the very top of the level anymore. I just know that I’m absolutely spent. I know I have physically nothing more to give. That for me is success. I’ve given everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis. I’m really happy with that. For me that is my success.” — Ashleigh Barty, in a conversation with longtime friend Casey Dellaqua, on why she decided to retire at age 25 while ranked No. 1 in the world.
BEST PAEAN TO BARTY — In a March 23 Sydney Morning Herald column titled “Ash Barty restored our faith in sport, and we owe her our thanks,” Paul Lutton wrote: “For all the backhand flourishes and classical brilliance that we saw in her timeless style as a player, perhaps Barty’s bigger gift to all of us was the notion that sport need not define the athlete, that she could live and thrive and be content with the content of her character, no matter the result. Barty was — and still is — an antidote for the spoiled, tempestuous, pampered stars who smash racquets into umpire’s chairs in fits of rage. It felt like she arrived at precisely the right time to help rebuild the collective faith in sport and its rightful place in the world. It’s an easy thing to say it’s just sport when you are so good at it, and it has paid so handsomely. However, in making the bravest of calls to walk away, Barty showed sport really is just that: a thing you do, not the person you become.”
BEST SPORTSMAN — The ATP’s Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award “Goes to the player who, throughout the year, conducted himself at the highest level of professionalism and integrity, who competed with his fellow players with the utmost spirit of fairness, and who promoted the game through his off-court activities.” Norway’s Casper Ruud epitomised these attributes and received the award in 2022. Felix Auger-Aliassime, Hubert Hurkacz, Grigor Dimitrov, and Carlos Alcaraz deserve Honourable Mentions.
BEST ARAB AND AFRICAN FIRSTS — “It’s always about Tunisia somehow. I want to go bigger, inspire many more generations. Tunisia is connected to the Arab world, is connected to the African continent,” said Ons Jabeur, after defeating close friend Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to become the first Arab and first African to reach the Wimbledon final. “The area, we want to see more players. It’s not like Europe or any other countries. I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa. I think we didn’t believe enough at a certain point that we can do it. Now I’m just trying to show that. Hopefully, people are getting inspired.”
BEST ECSTASY OF VICTORY — “It was just wild. My heart is going a thousand miles an hour. I was so excited. I was like: Let me sit down. Yeah, I’ve never felt something like that in my life, honestly.” — Frances Tiafoe, ecstatic and exhilarated after shocking Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open.
BEST CRITICISM OF ATP AND WTA FOR REMOVING WIMBLEDON RANKING POINTS — “I’m surprised the tour would look to take points away, because as a player, the tournaments that you long to play well in, and to win, are the Grand Slams,” former doubles superstar Todd Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports. “Taking points away won’t make any difference to the players wanting to play there, because of the prestige and the history of those events. The players have to look back over the last two years and recognise that it’s Wimbledon and the other Grand Slam events that have been able to sustain the sport. Nobody can win by having to make such a difficult decision, but ultimately, stripping Wimbledon of points does not help the sport at all.”
BEST IMPROVEMENT (MEN) — When 18-year-old whizkid Carlos Alcaraz reached the 2021 U.S. Open quarterfinals and two months later romped to the Next Gen ATP Finals title, tennis cognoscenti tabbed him as a future No. 1. The prediction panned out fast — much like the dynamic Spaniard’s bullet forehand — and he became the youngest men’s No. 1 in the Open Era at age 19. Alcaraz started the year ranked No. 32 and rose rapidly. He captured the ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro, his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami, a Spanish double in Barcelona and Madrid, where he beat Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Alexander Zverev in succession. Alcaraz climaxed his historic season by winning his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open.
BEST IMPROVEMENT (WOMEN) — Interestingly, three of the five players nominated for the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year are Russians — Ekaterina Alexandrova, Veronika Kudermetova, and Liudmila Samsonova. I give a slight edge to Beatriz Haddad Maia. The late-blooming (26) Brazilian started the season ranked No. 65 and finished at No. 15. Left-handed and 6’ tall, Haddad Maia grabbed grass-court titles in Eastbourne and Nottingham, upsetting Simona Halep, Maria Sakkari, and Petra Kvitova. Beatriz also reached the final in Toronto, where she took out Swiatek, Belinda Bencic, and Karolina Pliskova.
BEST INSIGHTS ABOUT THE PERILS OF PRESSURE — “It’s always really about handling your own nerves better than maybe your opponent is his own. This internal battle is always the greatest. In the practice sessions where you don’t have crowds or expectations, you play great. Then you come to the match, and you realise it’s amazing how the whole game can fall apart really just because you feel you’re tense, then no shots are really working properly. Your feet are static and slow. All the time there are these, let’s say, challenges that you’re facing internally but also externally. It’s really a constant battle.” — Novak Djokovic, on the constant battle to handle the pressure better than your opponent, which he did during his four-set victory over Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon final.
BEST PRAISE FOR SWIATEK — “A lot of respect for Iga. The way she plays, thinks, talks, it’s very good to have someone at the top like her. Even now with the situation [in Ukraine], I’ve spoken to her a couple of times. She’s very grounded. Similar to Barty. I think it’s great when someone like this is ruling.” — Marta Kostyuk, a rising young Ukrainian, talking to WTA Insider about world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, a 20-year-old Pole.
Talented kid: Carlos Alcaraz’s meteoric ascent shattered records as he became the youngest Open Era No. 1 at 19 and the first teenager in tennis history to earn $10 million or more in prize money in a single season.
| Photo Credit: AP
BEST PRAISE FOR DJOKOVIC — “He is the toughest and the most consistent,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas. “A perfectionist who took tennis to another kind of level. His diet, his physical work, the stretching, and his professionalism in every single area. I don’t think there is a single thing that he hasn’t thought of. Even the analysis I’ve heard from him. Novak is very advanced.”
BEST WOMEN’S NEWCOMERS — Zheng Qinwen shot up from No. 125 and No. 25 in a breakthrough year highlighted by her maiden WTA final in Tokyo. The hard-hitting, 19-year-old from China upset former champion Simona Halep during her breakthrough major run to the fourth round at Roland Garros and also reached a semifinal in Melbourne (WTA 250), the last eight in Toronto and the third round at both Wimbledon and U.S. Open. Jule Niemeier, a 23-year-old German, also impressed with a powerful game that took her to her first major quarterfinal at Wimbledon, upsetting No.3 Anett Kontaveit, and her U.S. Open fourth round where Swiatek stopped her in three sets.
BEST MEN’S CAREER COMEBACK — This accolade clearly goes to Borna Coric, a 26-year-old Croatian who peaked at No. 12 in November 2018 before injuries derailed his promising career. In 2022, he skyrocketed from No. 278 to a season-ending No. 26. Sidelined for 10 months due to shoulder surgery and rehabilitation, Coric returned to the tour at Indian Wells in March. He played glorious tennis at Cincinnati, where he eliminated five Top 20 players in a row, including Rafael Nadal, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, to claim his first ATP Masters 1000 title.
BEST WOMEN’S CAREER COMEBACK — Tatjana Maria took time away from the Tour from summer 2020 to summer 2021 as she gave birth to a second child, Cecilia. In 2022, the upbeat, 35-year-old German zoomed from No. 279 to 68 in the rankings and enjoyed a fairytale run to her first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon. There, her unorthodox shots upset No. 5 Sakkari, No. 17 Ostapenko, and Niemeier before No. 3 Jabeur needed three sets to beat her.
BEST COACH — Tomasz Witkorowski and David Witt are the co-winners of this important award. Witkoroski, who formerly coached Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska, encouraged Swiatek to play more aggressively. Taking that advice, Iga rose from No. 9 to a career-high No. 1, as she captured two majors and six other titles. Under the guidance of David Witt, Jessica Pegula ascended from No. 18 to No. 3. Jessica’s rock-solid strokes and high-percentage game produced quarterfinal results at three of the four majors and her first WTA 1000 singles title in Guadalajara. She also won three doubles titles with Gauff and two other doubles titles with different partners.
WORST ADMISSION ABOUT TANKING MATCHES — “I’ve literally thrown tennis matches if they’ve lost in, like, double overtime. If the Celtics lose, I’m in a pretty bad mood. That’s a good day for opponents to play me.” — Nick Kyrgios, talking to Tennis Channel, about being a super-fan of the Boston Celtics, adding he’s rarely missed watching a game.
BEST MOTIVATIONS TO PLAY TENNIS — “You play tennis because of the passion, because of the emotions it brings you. So it also drives you to keep practising, to go forward,” said Caroline Garcia, who reached her first U.S. Open semifinal.
BEST SPORTSMANSHIP — Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime, leading 7-6, 3-2 in his Marseille semifinal against Russian’s Roman Safiullin, watched Safiullin’s forehand passing shot land on his backhand sideline. When FAA heard the ball called “out,” he told Safiullin to challenge it because he believed the ball landed “in.” Sure enough, the replay showed the ball hit half of the sideline. Thus, the bad call was corrected. As the Eurosport TV commentator said, “We’ve just seen one of the great pieces of sportsmanship.”
BEST U.S. OPEN FINAL NET STATS — The precocious 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz won 34 of 45 points (76%) at the net, including 15 of 21 (71%) on serve and volley, during his U.S. Open final victory over Casper Ruud.
BEST HIGHEST-PAID FEMALE ATHLETES — As always, tennis players dominated Forbes’ annual list of the highest-paid women athletes, taking seven of the top 10 spots. Naomi Osaka earned the top slot for the third consecutive year, with her earnings reaching $51.1 million in 2022. Superstar Serena Williams came in at No. 2 with $41.3 million. The other top 10 racqueteers were No. 4 Emma Raducanu, No. 5 Iga Swiatek, No. 6 Venus Williams, No. 7 Coco Gauff, and No. 9 Jessica Pegula.
The on-field earnings figures include base salaries, bonuses, stipends and prize money. The off-field earnings estimates are determined through conversations with industry insiders and reflect annual cash from endorsements, licensing, appearances and memorabilia, as well as cash returns from any businesses in which the athlete has a significant interest.
BEST STREAK BREAKER — “I have no words right now. It reminds me of the time I beat Serena on the same court eight years ago exactly. This court is a lucky charm for me. I am a huge fan of Iga, she’s so talented and an amazing player and a nice ambassador of women’s tennis, so I’m very flattered I beat her today. This kind of match is what I live for, what I’m practising for, it drives me and I knew I could do it. I had this belief even with her wins, I thought if there is a moment you can beat her, it’s now on grass, so I was just believing very hard, and I have the best team by my side and the best crowd. I guess I like the upsets, it’s a really nice feeling right now, and I need to process because I still feel like I’m playing I’m not completely realizing what I’ve done.” — A beaming world No. 37 Alize Cornet after she snapped Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak with a stunning 6-4 6-2 victory on Court 1. Swiatek had the longest winning streak of the century on the WTA Tour with her opening victory over Jana Fett, surpassing Venus Williams for her 36th win and clinching her 37th in round two.
BEST CHAMPION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES — “Definitely off-court stuff. Not awards, none of that. Like you saw on my social media, the post of a little kid did the toss and we fist pumped. Then a tweet from a young woman called Hanna, who is in a wheelchair. She said, ‘I just can’t believe I’m seeing two people like me in prime time doing what they love.’ That just didn’t happen when we were young. That stuff, that’s my purpose, changing perceptions so people with disabilities can live the lives they want to live.” — Dylan Alcott, who received the ultimate honour for an Aussie, recognition as 2021’s Australian of the Year, asked after a match what he’s most proud of. The wheelchair tennis icon’s fabulous career—highlighted by 15 singles and eight doubles Grand Slam titles plus two Paralympics gold medals — came to a close at the Australian Open with a loss in the quad final.
Wheelchair tennis icon Dylan Alcott’s fabulous career came to a close at the Australian Open in 2022.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images
BEST ALCARAZ CONFIDENCE — “I am prepared, I am confident, I am also ready physically and mentally. Maybe it’s not Roland Garros, but I can win a Grand Slam this year. And I’m not afraid to say it. There is Nadal, Djokovic, Tsitsipas, or Medvedev, who are the best in the world and favourites in a Grand Slam, but yes, I am not afraid to say that I am ready to win a Grand Slam.” — A highly confident Carlos Alcaraz, after winning his third title of the year at Barcelona in April. Alcaraz then had played four ATP finals without lost a set in any of them and had won three of his last five events — Rio, Miami, and Barcelona.
BEST SERENA CAREER RECORDS —
•Winning 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most in the Open Era.
•Racking up a perfect 14-0 record in Grand Slam doubles finals with her sister Venus
•Capturing three of the four majors six (or more) times each. Five other players have won two different majors six or more times: Helen Wills Moody: Wimbledon (8) and US Open (7), Chris Evert: Roland Garros (7) and US Open (6), Steffi Graf: Roland Garros (6) and Wimbledon (7), Roger Federer: Australian Open (6) and Wimbledon (8), and Novak Djokovic: Australian Open (9) and Wimbledon (7).
•Defeating the No. 1 and No. 2 at the same tournament eight times. Venus Williams ranks a distant second with four.
•Capturing 10 Grand Slam titles after turning 30. Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova rank a distant second with three each.
•Winning three Grand Slam titles from match point down. Another 11 women each achieved the feat one time.
BEST FASCINATING FACT ABOUT WOMEN’S TENNIS — 15 women won the past 22 Grand Slam singles titles since Serena Williams captured her 23rd and last major title at the 2017 Australian Open.
BEST FASCINATING FACT ABOUT MEN’S TENNIS — The first player on record (since 1973) to defeat five Top-10 opponents at a tournament outside of the Nitto ATP Finals is Holger Rune at the 2022 Paris Masters. There, he upset No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 7 Andrey Rublev, No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, No. 8 Felix Auger-Aliassime, and No. 6 Novak Djokovic.
BEST FASCINATING FACT ABOUT THE BIG THREE — The last time before June 6, 2022, that the “Big Three” — Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer — were all ranked outside of the top two was November 15, 2003.
BEST FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT CODE OF CONDUCT VIOLATIONS — The six most common code violations at the four Grand Slam tournaments are racquet abuse, audible obscenity, unsportsmanlike conduct, illegal coaching, ball abuse, and verbal abuse. The only violation that women have racked up more than men is illegal coaching.
BEST CASE AGAINST ALLOWING RUSSIAN PLAYERS TO COMPETE — “They’re nice guys, they have nothing to do with it, but my position: This has gotten to a magnitude where Russia is really threatening world war and the death toll is very high — tens of thousands of people. Russian soldiers. The Ukrainian soldiers. Ukrainian civilians. They are getting murdered, thousands of them. So this is getting closer to genocide. And for this, I think that every reaction possible [should be deployed]. I hope tennis will take a stronger stand like FIFA has done. I know that Russian players have said ‘No war,’ but no war is not really a strong enough position for me at the moment. I think it’s a weak position. It’s not condemning their country’s actions. If the tennis world wants to keep them playing, they should really publicly condemn their government for doing the wrong actions. That is the only way the Russian people can stop [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. And from what we’re seeing now, he has an unbelievably high approval level. It’s up to like 70%. They actually think the war in Ukraine is nothing. This is a joke. Their brains are [brain] washed with propaganda. If it’s in sports, if it’s with their rich people, with oligarchs, every Russian must feel that something is wrong.” — Alex Dolgopolov, telling SI.com in early August that he’s heard from countless former colleagues and has strong thoughts on the hot-button tennis issue of whether Russian players should be allowed to compete.
BEST GAME-CHANGERS — “We changed it from being two great Black champions to being the best ever, period. And that’s what we did. We took out colour and we became the best. It is what it is, we changed the sport, we changed the fashion, we changed how people think, we changed how people think in business. Before we played tennis, we wanted to do something that was frowned upon, and now I have two amazing companies, one which we came to talk about, Serena Ventures, all because of what we did to change the sport.” — Serena Williams, told CNN she is proud of what she and her sister Venus have achieved and how they have impacted the game.
BEST HUMANITARIAN — Andy Murray received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for donating his prize money for the last 10 months of 2022 to help children affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The former world No. 1 is working with UNICEF to supply those in need with medical supplies and development kits. “When you see images of children on the news who were impacted by things like this, that makes it even more difficult to stomach,” said Murray, who became a UNICEF UK Ambassador in 2014, and later that year received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for the first time. “There are 7.5 million children in Ukraine and, after more than nine months of increased conflict, 5.2 million of them are in need of assistance.”
BEST TRUTH ABOUT THE WOMEN’S TOUR — “No disrespect to this generation, but when I played, the competition was harder,” rightly noted Maria Sharapova during the U.S. Open. “A 40-year-old Serena Williams beating the current world #2 is a great testament to this fact.”
Top star: Iga Swiatek dominated the women’s game with a blend of offensive power and defensive speed, winning the French and U.S. Opens and six other titles, including four at WTA 1000 events in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, and Rome. The 21-year-old Pole became the first player to finish a season with more than 10,000 ranking points since Serena Williams in 2015 and the first to capture two Grand Slam titles since Angelique Kerber in 2016. Iga’s 37-match winning run, equalled the longest WTA streak since 1990, and she finished the campaign with 67 match wins, the most since Serena in 2013.
| Photo Credit: AP
BEST THOUGHT-PROVOKING PREDICTION — “I think Nick [Kyrgios] playing great tennis is great for tennis. You see him packing stadiums when he’s playing singles, doubles, whatever. Alcaraz is a great personality. Sinner. Myself. People get behind me. You know the American guys, Tommy, Fritz. There’s a ton of guys playing great tennis. I don’t think it will be a Big Three. It will be like a Big 12.” — Frances Tiafoe, during his exciting run to the U.S. Open semifinals.
BEST CHINESE MEN’S BREAKTHROUGHS — Chinese men have trailed far behind their female counterparts in tennis this century, but that may change. Zhang Zhizhen, 26, cracked the world’s top 100, at No. 99, to become the first male Chinese mainland player to do so following a quarterfinal run at an ATP 250 event in Italy in October. Zhang’s 23-year-old compatriot, Wu Yibing, winner of the 2017 U.S. Open boys’ event and ranked No. 116, also made huge strides by reaching the third round at Flushing Meadows, after qualifying.
BEST MEN PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2023 — Ben Shelton, a 20-year-old University of Florida star who climaxed his college career by winning the NCAA Singles Championship, upset No. 5 Ruud and No. 56 Lorenzo Sonego at the Western and Southern Open. The 6’4” left-hander used his powerful serve and all-court game to rapidly rise to No. 97. Jack “The Ripper” Draper, another 6’4” lefty, dramatically improved in 2022, rocketing from No. 262 to No. 42. The just-turned-21 Englishman showed his considerable firepower and potential with impressive upsets over No. 5 Tsitsipas at Montreal, No. 8 Auger-Aliassime at the U.S. Open, No. 14 Fritz in London, and No. 15 Schwartzman in Eastbourne. Lastly, Emil Ruusuvuori, a 23-year-old from Finland, rose steadily from No. 90 to No. 40 in a season highlighted by straight-sets victories over Hubert Hurkacz, Schwartzman, and Tiafoe along with very close losses to Auger-Aliassime and Sinner.
BEST WOMEN PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2023 — Expect a huge breakthrough season from No. 27-ranked Qinwen Zheng. In 2022, the 20-year-old Chinese power hitter defeated Jabeur, Badosa, Muguruza, and Halep and twice extended Swiatek to three sets. Alycia Parks, a 21-year-old American who started the year ranked No. 237 and finished No. 100, has a big physique (6’1”), big game, and big goals. She racked up impressive wins over Sakkari, Pliskova, and Zheng. “I do see myself Top 10 next year, which is pretty high, but it’s definitely doable,” said the confident Parks. Also keep an eye on two promising teenage Czechs. Sara Bejlek, a 16-year-old lefty, was the youngest player at the U.S. Open, where she upset former top-10 player Kristina Mladenovic, Priscilla Hon, and Heather Watson in the qualifying to make her Grand Slam main-draw debut. Brenda Fruhvirtova, a 15-year-old prodigy, racked up eight ITF singles titles (the most of any player in 2022) to zoom 966 ranking spots to No. 128.
BEST METAPHOR — “We’ve talked so long about the Big 3, but the last couple of years, it’s been the Big 1. And we’ve been talking about the ‘Next Gen’ for so long. [Alcaraz] said he grew up idolising Federer, but he reminds in temperament much more of Rafa, playing every point for what it’s worth. Down love-40 serving, he still thinks he should win that game. He’s that guy. He plays with the joy of an 8-year-old who wants to show you he can do 100 pushups.” — Mary Carillo, in The New York Post.
WORST ATP COACHING INNOVATION — On June 21, the ATP announced that “off-court” coaching would be allowed starting July 11 for the second half of the season.
Off-court coaching will be permitted under the following conditions:
• Coaches must sit in the tournament’s designated coach seats.
• Coaching (verbal and non-verbal) is allowed only if it does not interrupt play or create any hindrance to the opponent.
• Verbal coaching is permitted only when the player is at the same end of the court
• Non-verbal coaching (hand signals) is permitted at anytime.
• Verbal coaching may consist of a few words and/or short phrases (no conversations are permitted).
• Coaches may not speak to their player when the player leaves the court for any reason.
• Penalties and fines will still apply for abuse or misuse of the above coaching conditions.
BEST CRITIQUE OF ATP COACHING TRIAL AT U.S. OPEN — Taylor Fritz, who called the ATP’s legalising coaching “dumb,” cited the compelling reasons why. “Tennis is an individual sport,” Fritz said. “Why are we making it not an individual sport? A huge part of tennis is, in my mind, like as tennis is as much mental as it is physical, and a big part of it is you need to be figuring it out on the court for yourself. You need to be the one figuring it out. I think it’s ridiculous that you can be mentally not there, not good analytically, not good at kind of working through things and coming up with strategies, and you can have someone tell you what to do. I hate it.”
BEST CASE TO PROHIBIT ON-COURT COACHING — “I love watching players problem-solve under pressure and deal with adversity. The job of the coach is to prepare the player, and then the player has to implement the plan. That’s what makes tennis unique and special,” explained Tennis Channel analyst Paul Annacone, who coached Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, on why he opposes the legalisation of coaching during matches.
BEST WIMBLEDON QUIP — When asked about Boris Johnson’s resignation as U.K. Prime Minister, Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur quipped, “I don’t really know, but I am the Minister of Happiness.”
BEST TENNIS PARENT — “Not a single day have I told him you have to do this; it’s really purely his own desire to step on the court. He’s really in love with the sport. Last night, when I spoke to him, he was up till late. He was showing me forehands and backhands, how he’s going to move tomorrow, kind of shadowing, playing shadow tennis without a racquet. It was so funny to see that. I used to do that when I was a kid. I could see the joy in him, the pure emotion and love for the game.” — Novak Djokovic, saying he’s put no pressure on his son Stefan to play tennis. While he was prevailing in Rome, his 7-year-old son, Stefan, was winning the title at his debut tournament at a club in the Serbian capital of Belgrade.
WORST MATCH-FIXING CRIMINALITY — On May 6, the International Tennis Integrity Agency banned six Spanish players from the sport after they received criminal convictions related to match-fixing, which the ITIA had labelled “one of the most significant infiltrations of tennis by organised crime.” Marc Fornell Mestres, Jorge Marse Vidri, Carlos Ortega, Jaime Ortega, Marcos Torralbo, and Pedro Bernabe Franco all pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Spain. Fornell and Marse had achieved ranking highs of 236 and 562, respectively, with the remainder having been unranked. The players were all given two-year suspended prison sentences, as well as a fine. The ITIA said it sanctioned the players following the conclusion of their criminal cases, with Fornell receiving the longest ban of 22 years and six months. Marse, Carlos Ortega, Tarralbo, and Bernabe were banned for 15 years, while Jaime Ortega received a sanction of seven years and six months. Fines ranging from $15,000 (£12,000/€14,000) to $250,000 (£202,000/€237,000) were also imposed on the players, albeit significant portions are suspended.
BEST POINT ABOUT LINE-CALLING — “With the technology available, you hate it when [line] calls are missed like that. It was such an important moment.” — Former doubles superstar Pam Shriver, an ESPN analyst, critical because Bianca Adreescu was victimised by an incorrect line call. The chair umpire came down and called the wrong ball mark in Andreescu’s first-set tiebreaker against Iga Swiatek at the Italian Open.
BEST OSAKA ANECDOTE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS — “I remember after I got back from France last year and having photographers follow me even at random places like the grocery store. It felt really odd and a bit overwhelming, until one day a woman came up to me and told me that by speaking up, I helped her son. At that moment, it did all feel worthwhile.” — What four-time major winner Naomi Osaka, who has suffered from depression and anxiety, wrote in a May email to The Associated Press.
BEST OLDEST RECORD — At 36 years and 2 days old, Rafael Nadal became the oldest champion in Roland Garros history, surpassing Spanish compatriot and 1972 champion Andres Gimeno, who won the title at 34 years and 10 months old.
BEST NADAL CONFIDENTIAL — “As I said a couple of times in the past… we achieved our dreams. Me, Roger, Novak, we achieved things that probably we never expected. For me, what drives me to keep going is not about the competition to try to be the best or to win more Grand Slams than the others. What drives me to keep going is the passion for the game, live moments that stay inside me forever, and play in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums.” — Rafael Nadal, after winning a record-extending 14th French Open and 22nd major title, on what drives him to compete at the highest level at the age of 36.
BEST “IN MEMORIAM” — Hall of Famer Robert “Bob” Falkenburg died on January 6 at age 95. The tall, serving and volleying Californian won 1946 Wimbledon after being down championship point and captured Grand Slam doubles titles with Don McNeil and Jack Kramer. Nick Bollettieri, the legendary coach who founded the first year-round, live-in, international tennis academy in 1978 and taught 10 world No. 1 players, including Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Venus and Serena Williams, and Jim Courier, passed away on Dec. 4 at 91. International Tennis Hall of Famer Gianni Clerici, a celebrated Italian journalist, historian, and broadcaster, died at 91. His authoritative compendium, 500 Years of Tennis, chronicled the origins of the sport through the first century of competition. Colin Stubs, a 1960s world-class player, tennis promoter, and long-time tournament director who steered the Australian Open through critical change, passed away July 13 at age 81.
BEST SABALENKA TRIVIA — Aryna Sabalenka was the only player — male or female — to reach the singles semifinals at the 2021 and 2022 U.S. Opens. Sabalenka has lost all three major singles semifinals she played by 6-4 in the deciding set.
BEST RYBAKINA TRIVIA — Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina pledged to donate the bonus she received from the Kazakh Federation to dog rescue and junior tennis in Kazakhstan.
BEST DJOKOVIC TRIVIA — The French carmaker Peugeot, one of Novak Djokovic’s main sponsors since 2014, ended their sponsorship in March because Djokovic refused to be vaccinated even after being deported from Australia just before the Australian Open.
BEST ALCARAZ TRIVIA — Carlos Alcaraz plays chess with his team as a pre-match ritual to build mental strength.
BEST SERENA TRIVIA — Serena Williams leads the women’s tour in Instagram followers, with 16 million.
BEST RADUCANU TRIVIA — Emma Raducanu, who amazingly won the 2021 U.S. Open as a qualifier, has had five coaches in the past 18 months.
BEST WIMBLEDON TRIVIA — For the first time since ATP rankings were introduced in 1973, neither of the world’s Top 2 players competed in the men’s singles at Wimbledon. No. 1 Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Daniil Medvedev was banned due to Wimbledon policy on Russian and Belarusian players, and No. 2 Alexander Zverev was sidelined by a serious ankle surgery suffered at the French Open.
Queen quits: Serena Williams waves to the audience after losing to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic at the U.S. Open. Serena refused to use the word “retirement” when she played what was her final match. Now 41, the American said she was “evolving” away from tennis. She won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, was number one for 319 weeks and, according to Forbes, was worth $260 million in 2022.
| Photo Credit: AFP
BEST CHINESE INSPIRATION — “Yeah, she’s the first one in Asia who won the French Open, the first Grand Slam. It’s like she gave me a little dream feeling the heart that while Asian people also can do something really good in tennis. Because the first one is always special, and especially in that moment I was really young. So, yeah, she gave me the dream to put that I can do something big in tennis.” — China’s Zheng Qinwen, a huge fan of the Big Three, told Tennis Now that she likes to watch videos of Novak Djokovic to pick up tips from his style of play, and she’s also inspired by China’s greatest player, Li Na.
BEST CILIC REJUVENATION — “I was talking with my doctor end of last year for the full check of my body, and he said your body’s like 25. And don’t tell my wife I’m saying this, that I might be playing another 10 years.” — Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, who reached the French Open for the first time at age 33, believes he has a long career ahead of him.
BEST WILD CARD — Home wild card Tim Van Rijthoven stunned heavily favoured Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-1 for a dream title at the Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. World No. 205 Van Rijthoven is the lowest-ranked tour-level titlist of the season. The Dutch wild card was playing in a maiden championship match on just his second appearance in a tour-level main draw. “This is new for me, it’s going to take some time getting used to,” said Van Rijthoven, who had not won a tour-level match prior to that week, in his on-court interview. As well as Medvedev, who reclaimed the No. 1 ranking the following day, Van Rijthoven beat Matthew Ebden, Taylor Fritz, Hugo Gaston, and Felix Auger-Aliassime to become the first Dutchman to win the ATP 250 event since Sjeng Schalken in 2003.
BEST BADOSA CONFIDENTIAL ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH — “They were like, I’m the next Maria Sharapova. I was very young and I wasn’t prepared to listen to all that. It was super big, with a lot of expectations and pressure… People watching me wherever I play and expecting me to win every match was too much for me. I remember, a few years I had depression and a lot of anxiety. I was dealing with a lot of mental health issues. My head wasn’t prepared to listen to all those things and compete. I wasn’t, maybe, even mature enough to know how to deal with all those emotions at that moment. I struggled a lot for a few years, maybe 2-3 years it was very tough for me. I wasn’t even advancing in the rankings and I was losing a lot.” — Paula Badosa opened up about her long-time struggle with mental health in a new collaboration for World Mental Health Day. The Spanish player was always very open about how her mental health struggles have impacted how her life and career. Badosa also emphasised the need to talk about issues like that because she knows what kind of profound impact it can have on a person.
BEST NEW U.S. OPEN METRICS — Steal Score calculates how often a player has won points when defending. The tournament average is 35%. Conversion Score calculates how often a player has won points when in an attacking position. The tournament average is 65%. After four rounds at the U.S. Open, Coco Gauff was the most impressive two-way player. She was in second place in the Steal Score at 46.1%, behind Victoria Azarenka at 47.7%. Gauff was also clinical in attack, converting 74% (42/57) of points when in an attacking situation.
BEST WIMBLEDON REFORM — For the first time in Wimbledon history, men’s matches that get to 6-all in the fifth set — and women’s matches deadlocked at 6-6 in the third set — are decided by a first to 10-point match super tiebreaker.
BEST VENUS PRESS CONFERENCE REPARTEE — Five-time Wimbledon singles champion Venus Williams, who just turned 42, after her Wimbledon first-round mixed doubles win with Jamie Murray:
Q. Are you here for the experience or are you going to go all the way?
VENUS: Are you going to write a good article or a halfway decent one?
Q. I’m going to do what I usually do.
VENUS: Us too.
BEST PRESSURE PLAYERS — Alexander Zverev led the ATP in the “Under Pressure Leaders Versus All Players On All Surfaces For 52 Weeks” standings with a 252.1 rating. The 25-year-old, big-serving German is followed by Jannik Sinner at 244.2, Novak Djokovic at 240.8, Dominic Thiem at 239.2, and Nick Kyrgios at 238.6. The “Under Pressure” standings are based on % Break Points Converted, % Break Points Saved, %Tie Breaks Won, and % Deciding Sets Won.
BEST DJOKOVIC GOAL — “An Olympic medal, especially gold, is always a big wish. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to fight for it in the past. I plan to be in Paris in 2024.” — In an interview with Serbia’s Radio Television, Novak Djokovic said capturing the Olympic gold medal — the only prestigious title missing from his expansive trophy collection — remains his primary wish. The 34-year-old Serbian, who won the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, is aiming to join Steffi Graf, Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, and rival Rafael Nadal as only the fifth player in history to complete the career Golden Slam — winning all four major titles and the Olympic singles gold medal.
BEST KYRGIOS CONFIDENTIAL — On February 24, Nick Kyrgios revealed on Instagram his struggle with serious depression and substance abuse. Nick recalled some of his “darkest periods” around the 2019 Australian Open, even resorting to self-harming, but the 26-year-old Aussie said he is in a “completely different” place now. “Most would assume I was doing OK mentally or enjoying my life … it was one of my darkest periods,” he wrote. “If you look closely, on my right arm you can see my self-harm. I was having suicidal thoughts and was literally struggling to get out of bed, let alone play in front of millions. I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family & friends. I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive. I know that day to day life can seem extremely exhausting and impossible at times. I understand that you feel if you open up it may make you feel weak, or scared. I’m telling you right now, it’s OK, you are not alone. I’ve been through those times when it seemed as if those positive energetic vibes were never ever going to be reality.” Kyrgios, who went on an extraordinary run at the Australian Open with Thanasi Kokkinakis to claim an unlikely doubles title, said he was now in a much better place in his life. “I’m proud to say I’ve completely turned myself around and have a completely different outlook on everything, I don’t take one moment for granted,” he wrote. “I want you to be able to reach your full potential and smile. This life is beautiful.”
BEST SERENA ADMISSION ABOUT COURT’S GRAND SLAM RECORD — “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually, it’s extraordinary.” — Serena Williams, admitting she was disappointed she ended up one major short of equalling Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record 24 titles, but also noting the extraordinary aspect of winning 23 Grand Slam singles titles during her 24-year pro career.
BEST HEIR-APPARENT TO NADAL — “It is clear: [Carlos Alcaraz] is my successor. Over the months ahead that will become clear. He is better than me in various aspects of the game.” acknowledged Rafael Nadal, after Carlos Alcaraz beat Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, and him at the Madrid Open to become the first player since David Nalbandian in 2007 to defeat three top-four players at a single Masters 1000 event.
BEST FRENCH OPEN QUALIFIER — Berbabe Zapata Miralles was the only qualifier and the lowest-ranked player at No. 131 to reach the round of 16 in Paris. The unheralded, 25-year-old Spaniard, who had never previously advanced past the second round at a major, upset Taylor Fritz and John Isner before Alexander Zverev ended his run.
BEST WIMBLEDON MEN’S QUALIFIER — Australian qualifier Jason Kubler, who nearly quit tennis in 2016 due to injury, survived six knee operations, and after a coaching stint, decided to give the pro tour one last shot. It paid off at Wimbledon. Kubler qualified without dropping a set, and then upset Dan Evans, Dennis Novak, and Jack Sock before Indian Wells titlist Taylor Fritz ended his fairytale run. “I’m super happy that something has finally happened,” said the persevering Kubler.
BEST U.S. OPEN UPSET — “The biggest win of my career by far. To do it at the U.S. Open is amazing,” enthused No. 303-ranked qualifier Brandon Holt, who scored a stunning upset over 10th seed and top-ranked American Taylor Fritz. Holt is the son of 1979 and 1981 U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin.
BEST POINT ABOUT THE BURDEN OF GREAT EXPECTATIONS — “The toughest thing in sports is expectations,” said former No. 1 Andy Roddick, on 19-year-old Holger Rune, who came of age at 19 when he knocked out five top-10 players to capture the Paris Masters for his first Masters 1000 title.
BEST WOMEN’S OFFICIATING FIRST — Aurelie Tourte became the first woman chair umpire for the final of the ATP Finals when she worked the Novak Djokovic-Casper Ruud final.
BEST FEEL-GOOD STORY AT WIMBLEDON — “It’s been a tough few days for sure. I’ve tried to kind of get my emotions out and deal with the situation, try and keep my head on the tennis. I was lucky because my grandpa managed to come down from Leicester, and so we could keep him company and keep supporting him at the same time.” — Katie Boulter, a wild card ranked No. 118, playing through the stress of the death of her grandmother two days earlier, and the pressure of being in the biggest stadium at the All England Club against the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up, staged a surprising comeback to upset sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the second round. Her grandfather was right there on Centre Court watching every twist and every turn, and, ultimately, the emotional celebration afterwards. The victory, her first over a top-10 player, put the 25-year-old Englishwoman into the third round at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
BEST SPORT FOR LONGEVITY — From SI.com: “Data from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that tennis can help people live stronger and longer. …After tracking more than 8,500 people for over 25 years, the data showcased that seven sports contributed to increased life expectancy for active participants compared to sedentary peers. Tennis was not only included in the seven sports that contribute to a healthier life, but it came in on top.” According to a recent EatingWell article, data from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that tennis can help people live stronger and longer. After tracking more than 8,500 people for over 25 years, the data showcased that seven sports contributed to increased life expectancy for active participants compared to sedentary peers. Tennis came out on top of the seven sports that contribute to a healthier life.
1. Tennis (9.7 years)
2. Badminton (6.2 years)
3. Soccer (4.7 years)
4. Cycling (3.7 years)
5. Swimming (3.4 years)
6. Jogging (3.2 years)
7. Calisthenics (3.1 years)
BEST GREAT ESCAPES — Barbora Krejcikova saved seven match points to outlast Anett Kontaveit 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (12) in a Sydney semifinal rollercoaster — three serving at 5-6 in the deciding set and four in the ensuing tiebreaker. Tim van Rijthoven also escaped seven match points in his 3-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (9), 6-1, 6-4 U.S. Open first-round comeback against Zhizhen Zhang.
WORST SORE LOSER — When Tennis Australia awarded the 2022 Newcombe Medal to Ashleigh Barty, who won her third major at the Australian Open and one of her country’s most beloved athletes, Nick Kyrgios reacted not with gracious praise but with churlish outrage. “Lol! No respect at all. I don’t give a f*&k,” Kyrgios angrily wrote on his Instagram Stories.
Bidding goodbye: It was shocking to note the 25-year-old Ashleigh Barty retiring from the sport just two months after she won her third major at the Australian Open,
| Photo Credit: AP
BEST PAYDAY IN TENNIS HISTORY — Djokovic pocketed the largest paycheck in tennis history, $4,740,300, for winning the ATP Finals.
WORST WIMBLEDON RHUBARB — “Default or not? If that is me, you are defaulting me,” raged Nick Kyrgios at umpire Damien Dumusois because Stefanos Tsitsipas received only a point penalty but wasn’t defaulted after he whacked a ball in frustration that whizzed past the head of a spectator sitting below his player’s box and hit the stadium wall. “He has hit a ball in the f****** crowd. Are you dumb? It’s a default brother. It’s a default bro! What classifies as that then? What classifies it? So you can hit a ball into the crowd, hit someone, and not get defaulted? Are you dumb?” Wimbledon fined Tsitsipas $10,000 and Kyrgios $4,000 for their misbehaviour.
BEST SELF-BELIEF — “I’m now in the quarterfinal of Wimbledon, so it’s really amazing for me. This means also that you always have to keep going. Doesn’t matter how old you are, doesn’t matter how many kids you have, you just have to keep going and believe in yourself. There’s always the belief that I can do it; I mean that’s why I came back after the first one [child]. It’s why I came back after the second one. If I don’t believe I can do these things, then I would not be here.” — Germany’s Tatjana Maria, the oldest woman left in the singles draw at 34 years, 10 months, said she’s been inspired by her two young daughters.
WORST AGONY OF DEFEAT — “[This match] probably hurts more than any loss I’ve ever had. In certain parts of the match, I felt like maybe I kind of just needed to come up with more, do more. I left a lot kind of up to him, and he delivered.” — Taylor Fritz, who hit 19 aces and 56 winners in his 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) loss to Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon quarterfinals., but he couldn’t find that extra something to throw the more resourceful and versatile Nadal off.
BEST SUCCINCT WIMBLEDON QUOTE — “Priceless, honestly,” said Marie Bouzkova, who lost to Ons Jabeur, on playing on the iconic Centre Court.
BEST RAW HONESTY QUOTE — When Carlos Alcaraz was asked how he pulled off his U.S. Open five-set victory over Jannik Sinner ending at 2:50 a.m., he repeated his mantra, “Cabeza, corazon y cojones”—Head, heart and balls.
BEST CAROLINE GARCIA CAREER FEATS — Carolina Garcia won her biggest career title, the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, at age 29. Her $1.57 million winner’s check gave her $15,064,141 in career prize money and made her the highest-earning Frenchwoman in WTA history, surpassing Amelie Mauresmo’s $15,022,476. Garcia has remarkably won her last five WTA finals in a row, and 10 of her last 11. After belting 25 aces in the tournament, including 11 in the final, she finished the year as the WTA’s ace leader with 394 aces, surpassing Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina’s 370. Garcia showed her all-surface versatility by becoming the only woman this year to win WTA titles on all three surfaces, plus a fourth surface, indoor hard courts at the ATP Finals. Garcia already won on grass (Bad Homburg), clay (Warsaw), and outdoor hard courts (Cincinnati).
BEST BROMANCE FROM KYRGIOS — “We definitely have a bit of a bromance now, which is weird. I think everyone knows there was no love lost for a while there. Earlier in the week, he was like, ‘Hopefully, I’ll see you Sunday.’” — Nick Kyrgios, saying before the Wimbledon final that he and Novak Djokovic were exchanging Instagram direct messages. Djokovic welcomed the Australian’s late-blooming success at Wimbledon, saying, “Honestly, as a tennis fan, I’m glad that he’s in the final because he’s got so much talent. For the quality player that he is, this is where he needs to be and he deserves to be.”
BEST BROMANCE FROM DJOKOVIC — “It is tough to find consolation words at a moment like this, but you showed why you are one of the best players in the world. I wish you all the best. I respect you a lot and you are a phenomenal talent. I never thought I would say so many nice things about you! OK, it’s official: it is a bromance,” said Novak Djokovic after the Wimbledon final meanwhile, predicting Nick Kyrgios would make more Grand Slam finals — while joking about a ‘bromance’ they now have.
BEST CONCISE “WHAT’S IT LIKE PLAYING DJOKOVIC” DESCRIPTION — “You win the first set, and you feel like you have to climb Mount Everest to get it done.” — Nick Kyrgios, describing playing against Novak Djokovic in his 4–6, 6–3, 6–4, 7–6 (3) Wimbledon final loss.
BEST PAEAN TO WIMBLEDON — “I have lost words for what this tournament, what this trophy means to me, to my team and family. It always has been and will be the most special tournament in my heart, the one that motivated me and inspired me to start playing tennis in a small little mountain resort in Serbia where my parents used to run a restaurant. I was four or five years old, [when] I saw Pete Sampras win his first Wimbledon in 1992 [actually 1993]. I asked my dad and mum to buy me a racket, my first image of tennis was grass and Wimbledon. I always dreamt of coming here, playing in this court, and of course realising the childhood dream of winning this trophy. Every single time, it gets more and more meaningful and special. I am very blessed and very thankful to be standing here with the trophy.” — Novak Djokovic, talking to the Centre Court crowd after he outplayed Nick Kyrgios 4–6, 6–3, 6–4, 7–6 (3) for his fourth straight Wimbledon title and seventh overall and 21st Grand Slam title, putting him one behind Rafael Nadal and one ahead of Roger Federer.
BEST GRASS COURT SUPERSTAR — “The comparisons should start now. There are very few players who I think even have a chance to beat Novak on grass, whereas on a hardcourt there are quite a few guys. He’s still obviously great on a hardcourt, but it just seems like over the last five, six years he’s just that much better on grass. It’s the fact that he covers the court so well. You have to play so big so often to get it past him because of his skills and how the court has changed.” — Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN analyst, assessing Novak Djokovic’s record after he won his seventh Wimbledon title, which tied Pete Sampras, his boyhood idol, and left him one behind record-holder Roger Federer.
BEST ANDREESCU CONFIDENTIAL — “Today just wasn’t my day. I feel like the universe just keeps testing me, but I’m not going to let up.” — Bianca Andreescu, who has yet to regain the form that she displayed when winning the 2019 U.S. Open, kept a positive perspective after losing her second-round match to eventual Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
BEST WHEELCHAIR TENNIS SUPERSTAR — Diede de Groot captured the Wimbledon women’s wheelchair singles for her seventh straight Grand Slam title to close in on compatriot Esther Vergeer’s records in women’s wheelchair tennis by beating Yui Kamiji of Japan 6-4, 6-2. It was the Dutchwoman’s 15th major singles title, second only to Vergeer’s 21. “I’m getting pretty close. I know this,” said De Groot. “But her achievements really stand on themselves. For 10 years, she wasn’t beaten. Those are records that no one’s going to beat.”
BEST “WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT SWIATEK” ANALYSIS — “She just seems like she’s kind of hit another level than all of us right now. Yeah, it’s a little scary. I think her athleticism is very off the charts. I think her defence is really, really, really good, kind of similar to like an Ash Barty, where they have offence and defence, they can get in the corners, dig out the points, play really good defence and then also take the racquet out of your hands sometimes. I think she’s gotten much more offensive this year, been more aggressive when she’s needed to be.” — Jessica Pegula, on why world No. 1 Iga Swiatek has been so tough to beat.
BEST TIEBREAKER FOR LENGTH AND FLUCTUATIONS — The longest tiebreaker in terms of points played in a main-draw match since the ATP Tour began in 1990 was the 24-22 tiebreaker in the 2022 Dallas Open semifinals between two towering rocket servers. Reilly Opelka edged John Isner 7-6 (7), 7-6 (22). Isner had 10 set points and Opelka eight match points.
Carlos Alcaraz (left) shakes hands with Casper Ruud after winning the US Open. The final marked the first final of men playing for their maiden major title and the world No. 1 ranking as well as the first Grand Slam final between two men who have never been world No. 1 playing for the top spot.
| Photo Credit: AFP
BEST KASATKINA “COMING OUT” DECISION — “There is no point, it would always be going around in your head until you say something. Obviously, each person decides how to open up and how much,” said Daria Kasatkina, Russia’s highest-ranked women’s tennis player, who revealed in a video interview she is dating a woman. Kasatkina said “living in the closet” would not be sustainable long-term. Soon after the interview was released, the French Open semifinalist posted a picture on Instagram of her embracing Olympic silver medallist figure skater Natalia Zabiiako with a heart emoji. In a Twitter post, Kasatkina called Zabiiako “my cutie pie.”
BEST EVERT TRIBUTE TO SERENA — “In my view, she revolutionised tennis. She revolutionised the power in the game. And I feel like she really inspired women of colour because we’ve seen a lot more women of colour playing the game. And I think that she’s changed the way women compete, as far as it’s OK to be ferocious and passionate and vocal out there, emotional out there on the court, and still be a woman. She’s lasted longer than most, if not all, female tennis pros. She’s transcended tennis and become a leader on many important cultural, social, and gender issues. — Former superstar Chris Evert, who won 18 majors in the 1970s and 1980s, paying tribute to Serena Williams before the 2022 U.S. Open, her last Grand Slam tournament, in the Associated Press.
BEST ESPN TV TENNIS RATINGS — ESPN said Serena Williams’ farewell match at the U.S. Open was the most-watched tennis telecast in the network’s 43-year history. Her third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic drew 4.6 million viewers. The previous record of 3.9 million was for the 2012 Wimbledon final, when Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray, in ESPN’s first year with exclusivity. The ratings peaked for the Williams match at 6.9 million viewers in the 10:15 p.m. quarter-hour as the match wound down. Through the first five days of the U.S. Open, an average of 1.1 million viewers tuned in to ESPN networks, up 101% versus 2021. These are the most-viewed first five days of the U.S. Open on record on ESPN networks. Williams’ second-round victory over Anett Kontaveit averaged 3.6 million viewers.
BEST FIRSTS PRODUCED BY ALCARAZ-RUUD U.S. OPEN FINAL — The Alcaraz-Ruud U.S. Open final marked the first final of men playing for their maiden major title and the world No. 1 ranking as well as the first Grand Slam final between two men who have never been world No. 1 playing for the top spot.
BEST COMMENT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF TECHNIQUE — “My technique, as a tennis player, was an obstacle to my success. But I was able to overcome that and have some success,” said four-time major champion Jim Courier, now a Tennis Channel analyst, noting his own shortcomings while praising Carlos Alcaraz’s sound technique during his 7-6, 6-1 round-of-16 victory over Marin Cilic at Cincinnati.
BEST ALL-TIME GRAND SLAM FINALS RECORD — Serena and Venus Williams finished a perfect 14-0 in Grand Slam doubles finals together, which equals the greatest unbeaten record in all Grand Slam finals in tennis history across all disciplines — men’s or women’s singles or doubles, or mixed doubles. (Rafael Nadal is 14-0 in French Open singles finals, but across all four of the Grand Slams, he’s 22-8 in finals.)
BEST TWEETS ABOUT SERENA’S CAREER — “(at)serenawilliams you’re literally the greatest on and off the court. Thank you for inspiring all of us to pursue our dreams. I love you little sis!!!!!!” — Tiger Woods, via Twitter.
“Congrats on an amazing career, (at)SerenaWilliams. How lucky were we to be able to watch a young girl from Compton grow up to become one of the greatest athletes of all time. I’m proud of you, my friend — and I can’t wait to see the lives you continue to transform with your talents.” — Michelle Obama, via Twitter.
“We just witnessed the last U.S. Open for the greatest of all time, Serena Williams!! Serena has meant so much to sports, the game of tennis, the world, every little girl, and even more to every little Black girl across the globe.” — Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, via Twitter.
BEST EXEMPLAR FOR MOTHERS CONTINUING ON PRO TOUR — “For women, it was either or, but now, Serena proved you can have both. There are plenty of other mothers on the tour who have done really well. The biggest reason we didn’t see it — there are a couple — the care wasn’t there, the money wasn’t there, and also women just chose to have babies and then they didn’t come back. But now I think Serena kind of paved the way for motherhood and to still be an athlete. I think you will see more and more women playing well into their 30s, maybe into their 40s.” — Martina Navratilova, telling CNN en Espanol’s Elizabeth Perez that Serena Williams has proved that they don’t have to shy away from returning to professional sport after giving birth. According to Navratilova, this is a huge shift from the mindset that was dominant in the ’70s and the ’80s, back when she was competing.
BEST COCO MANIA AT THE U.S. OPEN — “On the 6-5 changeover, people were saying, ‘Let’s go, Coco’. I was trying not to smile. I’ve got to stay in the zone. Inside, I was trying my hardest not to smile. This is a surreal moment for me, on Arthur Ashe Stadium people are chanting my game. I feel like I’m at an NBA game. That’s a special thing about tennis. You go to a football game or an NBA game, people are chanting the team’s name. For you to have the whole crowd chanting your name specifically is something I won’t take for granted.” — Coco Gauff, after reaching her first U.S. Open quarterfinal with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Zhang Shuai. The 18-year-old American trailed 5-3 in the second, but buoyed by the raucous crowd, saved a set point against the Zhang serve and then broke serve twice to win the high-calibre match.
BEST TEAM PLAYER — Who says tennis is an individual sport? Felix Auger-Aliassime won the three biggest team events in tennis. His team reign started in January when he helped Canada capture the ATP Cup. In September at the Laver Cup, his victory over Novak Djokovic proved the turning point for the Rest of the World against Europe. FAA peaked at the Davis Cup in November, when he played both singles and doubles and went unbeaten all week in Spain.
BEST ANALYSIS OF TIAFOE’S U.S. OPEN UPSET OVER NADAL — “Unbelievably smart, first of all. He is so physical and strong, and he serves better than ever before, so he gets a lot of free points. The backhand, I thought he wasn’t going to hit as hard as he needed to, and he did. He stepped into it, took it early, went crosscourt hard, down the line, he came to the net as well, so the variety of tactics was brilliant. He is so quick on the court, and then he was committed to his tactics from the first point to the last point. He has a perfect game. His forehand is such a big weapon, he moves unbelievably well, and he deserved to win today, for sure he was the better player. He put a lot of stress on Nadal’s game, and Nadal was missing a little more than we are used to because he has played hardly any matches since Wimbledon. It’s easy to play the right way, but to believe and do it until the very end is extraordinary.” — Eurosport analyst and seven-time major titlist Mats Wilander, on Frances Tiafoe, who upset 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, hitting 49 winners, to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
BEST LEBRON JAMES TWEET — “Man, I was losing it in the locker room. Bro, I was going crazy. That’s my guy. So to see him post that, I was like, ‘Do I retweet it as soon as he sent it?’ I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to be cool and act like I didn’t see it and then retweet it three hours later.’” — Frances Tiafoe, saying he was floored NBA great LeBron James tweeted a congratulatory shout-out calling him “young king” after he upset Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open.
BEST “GREEK FREAK” ADMIRATION OF SAKKARI — “Maria Sakkari, she’s amazing. She’s like a ball of fire, and I love that about her. She plays with a lot of intensity. She’s a good friend of mine, and I wish her the best.” — NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in 50 years, told Eurosport in Abu Dhabi how much he admires Sakkari, who had a tough mid-season stretch but rose to the occasion when she needed to, coming up with a clutch runner-up finish in Guadalajara to qualify for the WTA Finals in Fort Worth.
WORST DYSFUNCTIONAL TENNIS FAMILY — “My main takeaway from this is a little bit of a feeling of empathy for Stef Tsitsipas. Things that are out of his control are impacting him. His family, they’re so invested in his success. They want so much for him, they want to help him from the sidelines, but they’re just hurting him. And it’s hurting his chances to play good tennis. You saw how he threw his serve away with two double faults [in the third set against Andrey Rublev]. He got lost in the match when his parents started jawing at each other. I just feel for the kid. Because Stef seems like a good guy to me, and he’s said time and time again he doesn’t want input from the bench. But they give it to him anyway. It seems like they need a therapy session to figure it all out. Because they all want the same thing. They want their kid to do well, of course, they do, but it’s just not working. The way it’s going about right now, it’s hurting him more than it’s helping.” — Former No. 1 Jim Courier, on the dysfunctional Tsitsipas family. During Stefanos’s 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 ATP Finals loss to Andrey Rublev, he whacked a ball in frustration at his talkative father during the third set.
BEST FOND FAREWELLS — Besides tennis legends Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the sports world bade farewell to several impactful standouts. The most prominent were the popular three-time major champion Ashleigh Barty, 2009 U.S. Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, 2008 Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 2018 Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson, and shock 2016 Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig, Puerto Rico’s first in any sport. Samantha Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, played her last singles match, and 2017 Newcomer of the Year Cici Bellis, only 22, retired due to arm injuries. Other notables who hung up their racquets included former No. 6 Gilles Simon, former No. 9 Andrea Petkovic, and 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist Sam Querrey.
BEST FEDERER POPULARITY STAT — Roger Federer’s retirement announcement — a four-page letter on Instagram in mid-September — received more than three million likes.
WORST ASSERTION ABOUT FEDERER’S GOAT STATUS — Sports Illustrated magazine wrote: “Federer, 41, leaves with an airtight case as the GOAT of men’s tennis — 20 Grand Slam titles, 310 weeks ranked world No. 1 and perhaps the purest, most varied shot-making the game has ever seen.” SI’s GOAT claim is clearly not warranted. Rafael Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam titles along with his Olympic singles gold medal unequivocally made him the GOAT at the end of the 2022 season. In second place is Novak Djokovic, who has captured 21 major titles and a record 38 Masters 1000 titles, 10 more than Federer, and a record seven year-end No. 1 rankings.
Ons Jabeur in action during the Australian Open. “For women from different countries, especially from the Middle East, from the Arab world, I hope they can believe more in themselves and be here and play at any Grand Slam.” – Jabeur on being a trailblazer and role model for African and Arab women.
| Photo Credit: REUTERS
BEST TRAILBLAZER AND ROLE MODEL — “It feels really amazing. I hope I can send a powerful message that if I made it here, everybody could make it here. Especially for women from different countries, especially from the Middle East, from the Arab world, I hope they can believe more in themselves and be here and play at any Grand Slam. Young girls, they come to me and they want to ask for advice. …If they ask me the question like five years ago, I would have said I don’t know what, but now I feel like I have more experience I can share with them. It’s nice because they look up to me, and they will take my advice. It’s really nice.” — Ons Jabeur, who reached the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, on being a trailblazer and role model for African and Arab women.
BEST JABEUR ATTITUDE TOWARD FEAR — Ons Jabeur, who wore a T-shirt that says “Face Your Fears” around the grounds of the tournament, said, “Losing finals is one of them. Face all the stress. I think the most important thing is to accept that I’m playing a big final and accept all the emotions that are going to come my way.” Going into the U.S. Open final, the 28-year-old Tunisian had won all six semifinals she has made this year, but just two of the finals.
BEST BIG-MATCH PLAYER — Before losing 6-2, 7-6 (5) to Iga Swiatek in the U.S. Open final, Ons Jabeur said, “Iga never loses finals. So it’s going to be very tough.” That was only a slight overstatement because Swiatek has won 11 of 13 career finals.
BEST RUUD CONFIDENTIAL — “I have been playing tennis since before I have a memory because my father played with me for fun when I was young. Tennis has always been a big part of my life. When I saw Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer] on TV when I was young, I said that I want to be on TV someday myself. I think that just stuck with me all my life, that someday I would like to try to become world No. 1 and win Grand Slams.” — Casper Ruud, who would have achieved both goals had he defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the U.S. Open final.
BEST POIGNANT COMMENTS ABOUT RETIREMENT — “It was just pure sadness, which is also sometimes nice in a way. It was very pure. It wasn’t really negative. It was just exhausting. Crying so much is exhausting. I still love the game, still have a tremendous amount of passion for the game. It’s more the body that is not allowing me to play tennis anymore in a way that I want to play it, train the way I want to train.” — Andrea Petkovic, a 35-year-old German who reached a career-high No. 9 in 2011, on coming to terms with her retirement.
BEST CANADIAN FIRST — Canada defeated Australia 2-0 in the final to capture its first Davis Cup title. “The emotions are tough to describe,” Auger-Aliassime told the crowd at the rollicking Martin Carpena stadium. “We grew up together, dreaming about being on this stage, winning these types of matches, winning the Davis Cup. It’s really a dream come true. That’s what we play for. That’s what sports are for. It was a great moment for us and for the country.” For Canada, which has contested the tournament since 1913, it was the second time in the final after finishing runner-up to Spain in 2019, when Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime were squad rookies.
BEST SWISS FIRST — Switzerland beats Australia 2-0 to win Billie Jean King Cup for the first time. The Swiss had never won the international women’s team competition, formerly known as the Fed Cup, losing the final in 1998 and again last year. Belinda Bencic completed a near-perfect tournament by beating Australia’s Alja Tomljanovic 6-2, 6-1 in the final to give Switzerland an unassailable 2-0 lead after Jil Teichmann outlasted Australia’s Storm Sanders 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the opening singles match. Bencic, the 2021 Olympic gold medallist, did not drop a set all week, previously scoring wins over Jasmine Paolini, Leylah Fernandez, and Karolina Pliskova. “We were finalists last year and we were so heartbroken,” said Bencic. “I don’t think I’ve cried so much. But in the locker room, Jil came to me and said, ‘Next year we’re going to do it.’ And we did.”
BEST QUESTION FOR THE WTA ABOUT CHINA — About the WTA’s changed position on the Peng Shuai case, Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim wrote: “The WTA announced that Fort Worth, Texas, will host the 2022 season-ending WTA Finals from Oct. 31-Nov. 7… with the event thereafter due to return to Shenzhen, China, in cooperation with long-term partner Gemdale. Wait, what? That’s a quote from a press release. Last November, the WTA took the principled stance — courageously; pointedly; to worldwide acclaim — that China was untenable as host because the country’s values were inconsistent with the WTA’s values. What’s more, the WTA demanded that China conduct a fair and transparent investigation into the mysterious case of Peng Shuai. China did not reply, much less comply. And now the WTA is going back? A two-word question: what changed?
BEST FEDERER COMPARISON WITH ALCARAZ AT AGE 19 — “He has great power with his forehand. And that sets up everything for him. In this sense, when you can do that, like I did, you can then decide, ‘Shall I drop shot? Shall I hit it big? Shall I hit it big again? Or should I actually go for the angle? Or should I come in?’ My problem when I was younger — and I don’t think I was nearly as good as him at his age — is, for me, it was so hard which decision to take. He seems to have more clarity. He’s stronger mentally. He’s worked harder. You can see his body; if you look at our two bodies, we were different guys. He’s got a lot that is already going in a really good direction. Then it’s just a matter of powering through, plowing through.” — Roger Federer, who won his first major title at age 21, on comparisons between 19-year-old star Carlos Alcaraz’s all-court ability and his own.
BEST MARKETABLE TENNIS PLAYER — SportsPro ranked Serena Williams second, behind only Cristiana Ronaldo on its list of 50 of the most marketable athletes. Athletes are ranked according to a “Marketability Score,” which is split into three distinct scoring components — brand strength, economics, and audience. Naomi Osaka finished No. 6 despite not winning a tournament since the 2021 Australian Open. Emma Raducanu is listed at No. 12, while Simona Halep appears at No. 15 and Rafael Nadal at No. 16.
BEST NAVRATILOVA COMMENTS ABOUT PICKLEBALL — “It’s a great sport for sure:), will only play pickleball (who came up with that name?!?) if I can’t run at all anymore…. I say if pickleball is that popular, let them build their own courts:).” — All-time great Martina Navratilova, tweeting about the scourge of pickleball players intruding on and defacing tennis courts with pickleball lines.
BEST ADVICE FOR CRESSY — “Cressy needs to be even more obnoxiously aggressive. If I were his coach, I’d tell him to crush and rush and chip and charge, but do not stay at the baseline.” — Former No. 1 and Tennis Channel analyst Jim Courier, with excellent advice for fast-rising American serve and volleyer Maxime Cressey during his first-round loss to six-time Novak Djokovic at the Paris Open.
WORST OVERSTATEMENT ABOUT MEDVEDEV — “Medevev is a strategic genius when it comes to playing points. He knows just what he wants to do,” asserted Paul Annacone, Tennis Channel analyst, during the second set of Daniil Medvedev’s stunning three-set loss to No. 25 Alex de Minaur in the Paris Masters first round. As the season progressed, the Russian former No. 1 made tactical mistakes in terms of shot selection and court positioning, and opponents increasingly exploited them.
BEST ULTIMATE SURVIVOR — Like his native Ukraine, Leonid Stanislavskyi has survived unimaginable horrors during his 98 years — World War II, when worked as an engineer helping build Soviet warplanes to fight the Nazis and the current war in Ukraine, before leaving Kharkiv when the Russian bombardment endangered him. Considered the world’s oldest tournament player, Stanislavskyi told Itftennis.com, “We need this war to stop. I want to play tennis. Unicourt Tennis Club and Superior Tennis Club are closed. Shame on war. Let’s live and play tennis. I must reach my 100th birthday.”
BEST CAREER BREAKTHROUGH TOURNAMENT — “I feel exhausted. It was an incredible tournament,” Rune said. “I have so much respect for what (Djokovic) has done. I’m so proud of myself, it hasn’t sunk in yet. The last game was one of the most stressful of my tennis life.” The 19-year-old Dane upset five top-10 players, including No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, Felix Auger-Aliassime (ending his 16-match winning streak), Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Hubert Hurkacz, after a thrilling first-round win in which he saved three match points against Stan Wawrinka to capture his first Masters 1000 tournament at the Paris Masters. Rune escaped six break points in the last game of his 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 upset over six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the final.
BEST SPORTSWASHING CASE AGAINST NORRIE — “We were never going to be telling people like Cameron Norrie where they should or shouldn’t play tennis, but by appearing in Diriyah, Cameron should realize he’s effectively being deliberately hired in to take part in the latest jamboree of Saudi sportswashing,” Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of priority campaigns, told The Times (UK). “Cameron has a big platform and genuine influence, and he should use this to show solidarity with people like Salma al-Shehab [a Leeds University student who was jailed for 34 years over critical tweets] who are being cruelly persecuted in Saudi Arabia. What Saudi Arabia appears to look for with these competitions is a smiling high-profile sports star who will studiously avoid talking about human rights. Cameron should speak out.” The event is largely funded via the Saudi Arabian regime’s considerable investment of billions of pounds in sport, including golf, Formula One, boxing, and football. According to the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights. To his credit, Andy Murray has said he will never play in Saudi Arabia.
BEST FASHION STATEMENT — Serena Williams went out in style, literally, at the U.S. Open. The sport’s boldest and most innovative fashionista since 1920s French diva Suzanne Lenglen, Serena dazzled with an all-black, diamond-encrusted custom Nike dress, jacket, and shoes. Like the Superwoman, she used to say she was, she entered Arthur Ashe Stadium — all her matches were featured at night — in a black, removable cape. Her solid gold shoelace tags were adorned with 400 hand-set diamonds and a diamond-laden “Swoosh” logo. If the six-time Open champion didn’t play like the queen she once was, for three memorable matches, she looked like a queen. Off the court, Serena starred just as brightly as opening model in the Vogue World show in a metallic silver Balenciaga tank dress and cape.
BEST HONOUR FOR SERENA AND VENUS — Tennis icons Serena Williams and Venus were among seven honoured on November 12 at the National Portrait Gallery’s Portrait of a Nation gala, recognised with new portraits now hanging in the museum to honour the significant contributions they’ve made to U.S. history. Others in the class of 2022 were Dr. Anthony Fauci, chef Jose Andres, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, activist Marian Wright Edelman, and music executive Clive Davis. Each one honoured this year was chosen for their efforts in making the last three years “easier or more about community,” said gallery director Kim Sajet. “I was so struck by awe,” Venus Williams said onstage of walking through the museum and seeing her likeness alongside other significant American figures. “When you see the portraits, you realise history matters and what you do matters.”
BEST PRAISE OF MULTI-FACETED ALCARAZ — “Carlos has the best of the Big Three’s style,” former doubles No. 1 Todd Woodbridge said during a December 21 virtual interaction organized by Sony Sports. “He has the volleys of Federer, the tenacity of Nadal, and the court movement of Djokovic. You put that together and it’s an awesome package. But I want to see how he copes with being the No. 1 and having won the last Grand Slam [U.S. Open]. He is still maturing, as an athlete and a man.”
BEST PASSING OF THE TORCH COMMENT — “So I think it is something that was inevitable to happen after the 15 years of domination of Nadal, [Roger] Federer, myself, [Andy] Murray, [Stan] Wawrinka, and [Juan Martin] Del Potro. These guys have been leading the game, and of course, you are going to have the next generation. Many people are concerned if the game is in good hands and whether people are going to continue watching after the ‘golden era,’ so to speak, but it was a ‘golden era’ with [Bjorn] Borg, [John] McEnroe, [Pete] Sampras, [Andre] Agassi and [Boris] Becker and still, there were new guys coming up.” — Novak Djokovic, in November, on the inevitable passing of the torch to the younger generation.